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Friday, 3 May, 2002, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Experts attack fingerprint evidence
Shirley McKie being fingerprinted
Ms McKie was tried for perjury and cleared
Fingerprint experts have attacked the way evidence was handled against a Strathclyde Police detective who was wrongly accused of perjury.

They have accused the Scottish Criminal Records Office (SCRO) of undermining the credibility of fingerprint evidence.

The 129 experts from around the world have written to Scotland's justice minister saying there is no doubt that a thumbprint found at a murder scene was not left by detective Shirley McKie.

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: Experts have urged him to intervene

Ms McKie was acquitted after the evidence against her was discredited but the SCRO cleared its staff of any wrongdoing.

The experts are now asking Justice Minister Jim Wallace to intervene.

They say that unless the SCRO admits it made a mistake, the case could undermine the credibility of both fingerprint evidence and the Scottish judicial system.

Scottish National Party MSP Mike Russell told BBC Radio Scotland the case had become an international cause celebre.

Damaging reputation

"The cream of the world's fingerprint profession has signed an open letter to the Justice Minister Jim Wallace saying that unfortunately the Scottish criminal justice system is in danger of causing disrepute - not just to itself, but to the whole question of fingerprinting - by the actions of the SCRO," he said.

He said the experts had no doubt that the SCRO's work in the case had been "just wrong".

And he warned: "It is damaging the reputation of fingerprinting throughout the world."

A fingerprint
SCRO fingerprint experts were cleared
The questions about the SCRO's fingerprint experts were raised following a murder case in 1997.

David Asbury had been jailed for life for killing a woman in Kilmarnock, but he has since been released pending an appeal.

Ms McKie was charged with perjury after her thumbprint was said to have been found at the house in Ayrshire - despite her protestations that she had never entered the room.

She was tried at the High Court in Glasgow in 1999 and was found not guilty after evidence by two independent American witnesses proved the print did not belong to her.

Four fingerprint experts from the SCRO, whose evidence led to Ms McKie facing the charge, were later suspended.

Civil action

No charges were ever brought against SCRO's experts.

Shirley's father Ian McKie said he was astounded by the decision and that the family would continue with a civil action against the SCRO.

Ms McKie then sought to bring a 100,000 damages action.

However, at the Court of Session, Lord Emslie said the action was "fundamentally irrelevant" because she was unable to show her ex-colleagues had acted with malice.

Internal report

At the time Ms McKie said she would not relent in her pursuit of justice.

Mr Russell is now calling for Mr Wallace to say that the internal SCRO report into the case is wrong.

"He has to set it aside and we have to conclude this matter," he said.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Executive said: "There is a civil action ongoing against Strathclyde joint police board, Scottish ministers and four fingerprint officers at the SCRO, and the matter is sub-judice.

"It would not, therefore, be appropriate to comment at this stage."

Scottish National Party MSP Mike Russell
"This case has become an international cause celebre"
See also:

21 Mar 02 | Scotland
Fingerprint officer fights on
14 Feb 02 | Scotland
Fingerprint detective claim rejected
24 May 01 | Scotland
Praise for criminal records agency
12 Dec 00 | Scotland
Fingerprints woman to sue
03 Aug 00 | Scotland
Fingerprint experts suspended
16 May 00 | Scotland
False impression: transcript
18 Jan 00 | Scotland
Finger of suspicion: transcript
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